'Last Tango in Paris' actress Maria Schneider dies

4th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

French actress Maria Schneider, best known for playing opposite Marlon Brando in the steamy 1972 classic "Last Tango in Paris," died Thursday aged 58 after a long illness, her family told AFP.

Schneider was 19 when she made the film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci whose graphic sex scenes sparked controversy and led to it being banned in several countries.

"Last Tango in Paris," the tale of a French girl and a middle-aged American who meet in a run-down apartment in Paris to have anonymous sex, won Oscar nominations for Bertolucci and Brando and catapulted Schneider to global fame.

Schneider will be buried at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where she died, a family member said.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand paid tribute to her "grave beauty, the detached irony of her look (and) the husky softness of her voice" and said she was a "great artist."

The actress battled drug addiction in the 1970s but later revived her career and acted in a string of films, including alongside Jack Nicholson in "The Passenger" and in the 1996 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre."

Her last screen role was in the 2008 French movie "Cliente".

Schneider told a British tabloid that she "felt a little raped" by Italian director Bertolucci's insistence that she film a graphic anal sex scene with Brando in "Last Tango in Paris."

But she said that she and Brando "stayed friends until the end" and that "undoubtedly, my best experience about making the film was my encounter with Marlon."

Bertolucci said Thursday he wished he could have apologised to Schneider for putting her through the graphic sex scenes in his film.

"Her death has come too early, before I could give her a tender embrace and tell her that I was as tied to her as I was at the start and apologise to her at least once," he was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying.

"Maria accused me of having robbed her of her youth and only today am I wondering whether there wasn't some truth to that," he added.

"The truth is she was too young to withstand the impact of the film's unpredictable and brutal success. Marlon hid behind his impenetrable privacy and the full weight of promotion fell on Maria and myself," Bertolucci said.

"Together with the film, she gave American puritanism a shove. At that time, transgression was still possible and Maria could not resist the temptation to live it fully, body and soul, with all her beauty and joy," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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